I’ve served in children’s ministry for 41 years and all this time the kids in the churches where I’ve served have been a mixture of “typical” kids . . . if there is such a thing. Children from homes where their entire family went to church, children from homes where part of their family went to church (most often from homes where their parents were divorced) and children from homes where nobody went to church (community, non-churched kids). But, in spite of all these years of experience with a fairly wide variety of children and families, I have not worked with children who were runaways. Honestly, my exposure to runaways is fairly limited . . . well, when my husband and I had been married for one year, we did work with children who were in a group home for juvenile delinquents and many of these boys were runaways at one time or another . . . but, my overall exposure was limited. I had no idea how many children in this country are runaways. This is until I added a tab to my blog for grandmas where I highlighted missing children so the grandmas (and grandpas, moms and dads) who read my blog could pray for the children and their families. I signed up with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children‘s website so they email me alerts to let me know when and where children are missing. I have to say I am shocked. There are days when my inbox is filled with these alerts. (I’m stunned how many of these children are from the state of Florida)
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says, “Every year in America, an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing, more than 2,000 children each day.” More than 2,000 children each day are reported as missing. Most of these children are runaways. Does this number shock you? It shocks and breaks my heart. So many hurting children. Just as I wrote this post I’ve received five emails to let me know about children who are listed as Endangered Runaways. I’m stunned how many runaways are as young as 11 and 12 years old.
So . . . why am I writing about this? Well, first of all because it has been weighing heavily on my heart to see each and every day how many children are out there who feel unloved, unwanted, unsafe and who think running away is the “answer” to their problems. I also am writing this to raise awareness. I think it is so easy for us to be caught up in our ministries with primarily “church kids”, we lose sight of the children around us who are in such grave need of knowing, most importantly, Jesus loves them and knowing there are people who love and care about them, too. I’m not just talking about teenagers, but children . . . children who could be in our ministries or who could be schoolmates of the children who are.
So, for the next few posts I’ll write about what we can do to reach out to children who are at risk. Children who are in serious need. Children who we need to be praying for and who we need to keep our eyes open for so we are able to see and help them.